International Practice Workshop: Interpersonal Relations in Court Societies. Theory and Methodology in Practice

This workshop was held on the 22 March 2016 at the German Historical Institute Paris. The workshop seeked to support the production of empirically well-grounded studies, which apply theoretical and methodological approaches in a creative manner. This practice workshop of the GHI’s research group on “Practices of Power and Interpersonal Relationships at Dynastic Centres (1500-1800)” aimed to discuss the application of innovative theories and methodologies to various subjects in the bourgeoning field of historical court studies. During the one-day workshop every participant had to present one of their texts, which were distributed beforehand to all contributors, followed by constructive discussions. For a detailed report of the workshop, please go to:

Only a few days left. Call for Papers: International workshop at the GHI Paris


“Interpersonal Relations in Court Societies: Theory and Methodology in Practice”


Application deadline: 24 January 2016


On 22 March 2016 the one-day workshop “Interpersonal Relations in Court Societies: Theory and Methodology in Practice”, organised by our research group “Practices of Power and Interpersonal Relationships at Dynastic Centres (1500-1800)”, will take place at the GHI Paris.
As innovative research in historical court studies is based on the solid ground of theoretical reflexion, this workshop focuses on methodological approaches and models for the understanding of the court as a political and social institution. The workshop’s objective is to create a forum for discussions about the various ways how the innovative and creative use of theories and methodologies can contribute to the research in the bourgeoning field of historical court studies.
At the one-day workshop the participants will be given the opportunity to present a specific theoretic or methodological approach that he or she has found particularly useful and inspiring for their work. Before the workshop, each contributor will circulate a short published theoretical or methodological text (a chapter or an article), which will be read by all participants. On the day of the event, all scholars will provide a short presentation of about 20-30 minutes in length, which will comprise the following elements: a brief introduction to the individual research topic and a discussion of how the circulated approach could be fruitfully applied to the presented thematic. Work-in-progress is welcome, and all presentations will be followed by a constructive discussion. We are particularly interested in comparative and transcultural approaches, not only where they are concerned with Western European court societies, but also where they include dynastic centres outside of Europe.
Working languages are French and English. We expect the ability to follow discussions in both languages.
Travel costs for participants will be covered and accommodation can be provided. Please apply with a short cover message (including details on language skills), an abstract of the planned presentation of no more than 200 words, as well as a Curriculum Vitae to Pascal Firges ( For any enquiries please contact Pascal Firges or Regine Maritz (

Must-Read (II): „Residenzenforschung“ – An Overview of the Publication Series of the German Commission for Research into Courtly Residences

by Fritz R. Viertel

In 1990, the Residenzen-Kommission (Commission for research into courtly residences) of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences published their first edited volume of a series, entitled Residenzenforschung, containing a variety of lectures and abstracts that dealt with recent questions and perspectives of the field in Germany (vol. 1, 1990). It was the introduction to a total of twenty-six volumes which were published by the commission over the following twenty-five years. Today, the Residenzenforschung is the most important publication series focusing on the history of residences and courts in the Holy Roman Empire from the Middle Ages up to early modern times. Continue reading

Must-Read (I): Important studies on early modern court networks and courtly life

by Jonas Bechtold

Early modern court historiography has been very productive in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Researchers dealing with the history of princely courts in Europe can have great use of this variety, but when being new in the field researchers and students may be seeking for orientation. With the intention of giving an – albeit limited – overview, this post is going to present some of the most important works on European courts, their networks and functioning: Continue reading

Norbert Elias and his critics

by Jonas Bechtold

Undoubtedly, the “Court Society” of the sociologist Norbert Elias (1897–1990) has been one of the most influential and discussed books for early modern historiography in the twentieth century. Therefore, his impact on more than fifty years of historical research cannot be underestimated. But in the course of the examination and analysis of Elias’ theories, historians have both adapted and deconstructed it. Especially his idea of a “Royal Mechanism” – playing off the traditional nobility against a raising bourgeoisie and thus controlling both – has found its critics. However, students dealing with the early modern court should certainly study Elias’ theory of the functioning of courtly societies and also be aware of the following studies: Continue reading

Research Databases and Internet Platforms

by Jonas Bechtold

The importance of scientific databases and online platforms for historical scholarship is evident. The methodical and geographical diversity of early modern court historiography creates a particular demand for the linking of research projects. In view of this, the present post aims to present a small selection of important online projects, which may be of use to interested students and “newcomers” in this field of historical research. Continue reading

Digital News

Just a short post to alert you to some interesting developments in the digital world.

1) A new opportunity has arisen to become involved with the GHI research group “Practices of Power and Interpersonal Relationships at Dynastic Centres (1500-1800). A grant is available for students intending to write an M.A. thesis relating to our research interests. Support to work as part of the team here in Paris is available for two to six months for the right candidate. Details of the CFA can be found here. The deadline for applications is the 1st October 2015.

2) The medieval history blog is running  a series of articles on the topic of courtly careers under the title “Rise and Fall at European Courts of the Middle Ages”. Do not be put off by the temporal description. Scholars of great relevance for the early modern period, such as Jan Hirschbiegel and Jeroen Duindam, write for the series. The next installment is announced for the 21st June, which is to be written by Christoph Mauntel, and articles by Sebastian Zanke and Duindam are to follow a month later.

Workshop: Power Relations in Court Societies (Part 2)

 img_1112During the first half of the day, the presentations in the workshop centred on gender problematics and global approaches; the speakers of the second part of the workshop then zoomed in closely on interpersonal relationships and analysed specific cases. Alliances of international importance were created and assured through interpersonal relationships between individuals of supreme social status and political power. However, the many other individuals that populated the early modern court often remain invisible. Yet, these papers showed that the consideration of non-noble agents like advisers or some courtly staff members can shed more light on the modes of governance practiced in the courtly network.

Continue reading

Workshop: Power Relations in Court Societies (Part 1)

img_1095Early modern courts were the centres of political power of their time and the locus of the gestation of modern state institutions. Hence, they are a crucial site for historical research. In investigating the courtly power system, however, historiography has often solely focused on the person of the ruler and his (rarely her) immediate political decision-making, thus excluding the social practices rooted in interpersonal relationships, which shaped such individual decisions, as well as entire polities in their own right. With the aim of analysing those less visible relations, the German Historical Institute in Paris (GHIP) hosted a workshop on March 5th and 6th 2015 with the title “Power relations in court societies. Marriage, concubinage, friendship, kinship, and patronage in historical perspective.” The organizers, Pascal Firges and Regine Maritz, invited five doctoral students from three different countries to present their research subjects for comments and discussions. Continue reading

The Ties that Bind

This is the official blog of the research group ‘Practices of Power and Interpersonal Relationships at Dynastic Centres (1500-1800)’, which has its seat in the German Historical Institute in Paris. The group’s objective is the investigation of interpersonal relationships that defined and shaped power structures at court. The shifting constellations of these relations often decided over success or failure in the endeavour to create and rule stable polities. This project seeks to contribute to a better understanding of how social relationships and political practices of power relate to each other and indeed, as is our contention, build on one another in the context of early modern dynastic centres. We thereby seek to overcome public/private dichotomies, which are ill-equipped to describe early modern polities, yet are still entrenched in historiographical approaches to the topic of the court. Continue reading